What Are Some Good Brands Quality Subwoofers
Subwoofer buying guide & comparison
What you should know about subwoofers - buying guide & comparison
Everything you should know beforehand about the subwoofer - with basic knowledge, advanced know-how and the product highlights in one Subwoofer buying guide. Which model is right for you, how you can adjust the subwoofer and where the best position for the subwoofer is in your listening room.
The most important basics, tips, tricks and the big comparison in our subwoofer buying guide.
By Carlos San Segundo
Subwoofer Buying Guide - Contents
Reading tip: Studio monitors guide »
What is a subwoofer? Buying guide
A subwoofer is a specialized loudspeaker that is responsible for the (deep) bass. In common parlance, it is also often referred to as a sub (or sometimes a woofer).
The subwoofer plays frequencies of 20-200 Hz, whereby the models for PA systems remain below 100 Hz. Most studio models come with a 10-inch diaphragm. In the area of PA systems, 15 and 18 inches are more likely to be found.
The development of these woofers began in the 1960s.
Important basics in the studio monitor guide
What does 2.1 mean?
2.1 means that two satellites (speakers) are paired with a subwoofer. The speakers play the left and right stereo channels. The subwoofer is responsible for the bass reproduction (both channels).
This is to be considered analogous to surround sound, which come up with 5.1 and 7.1 variants. Three or five additional loudspeakers are set up in these in order to achieve better localization in three-dimensional space.
Do i need a subwoofer? Read the guide!
The question is on paper »Buy a subwooferor not? «easy to answer: Yes, because with a specialist in bass you can expect a lot more sound. Most speaker setups can benefit from using a subwoofer. But (as is so often the case in life) it is far from that easy.
Let's look at both sides.
Pro: More information on bass
Many loudspeakers with 4, 5 or 6 inch diaphragms do not adequately reproduce the low frequency range. They reach down to about 60 Hz and beyond that they can only provide little information about bass events.
Anyone who produces music for the club, however, needs this information - how else could it be assessed whether the bass is really shaking, kicking or punching? This is where the subwoofer comes in.
For the production of club music, the purchase of a subwoofer can definitely be worthwhile.
Pros: Studio monitors can work more efficiently
If there is a subwoofer in the system, this means less stress for the satellites (the two "normal" speakers) and / or the amplifiers. The deeper a note, the more energy is required to reproduce it.
For a studio monitor, this also means that the membrane has to cover a greater distance. And that takes time. Of course, this has an effect on the mids, for which less energy and membrane deflection are now available.
If you use a sub, the satellite speakers no longer have to reproduce the energy-sapping deep bass, but can concentrate fully on the mids and highs. This can lead to more impulse fidelity, less distortion and a lower distortion factor.
Pro: More musical reproduction
With a good subwoofer, the sound reproduction of your monitorings can improve dramatically and appear more musical in the overall context. In the best case, you benefit from more dynamics, deeper bass, more clarity in the mids and more power for more volume.
Cons: Quality has to be right
On the other hand, there are some pitfalls that can quickly nullify the benefits. On the one hand, a subwoofer can reduce the overall performance of the monitors. This happens when the subwoofer design is sub-par - that is, not on the same level as your satellite speakers.
Many models produce a lot of bass and move a lot of air, but this happens when the quality of the bass reproduction is low. It is not uncommon to find models that spit out a sudden dullness. In such cases, the important information about the low frequency range is masked rather than clearer.
Cons: Set the subwoofer correctly
It becomes much more problematic if the sub is set up incorrectly in the room - or the crossover frequency has been selected incorrectly and affects the sound. Not every model offers the option of manually adjusting the frequency to the loudspeakers. But this is necessary to achieve optimal music reproduction.
It is also problematic and very common to set the level of the subwoofer too loud. All of these points can reduce the monitoring performance or even lead to worse results in mixing or mastering than without the use of a sub.
Cons: Consistent sound image necessary
A subwoofer that matches the satellite speakers produces a homogeneous, coherent sound. The transition between bass and middle happens unnoticed and smoothly. If the sub and loudspeakers do not complement each other well, the continuity of the musical texture can be broken.
This can be heard particularly well on a double bass, for example, which plays a scale over different registers that extend into the middle. The scale should always sound the same in terms of dynamics and timbre.
If the sub and speaker do not match, you can hear the transition. This distracts unnecessarily when mixing or mastering and leads to further problems.
Cons: Unoptimized rooms
Most of the listening rooms in home studios have not been acoustically optimized or treated at all. A subwoofer can really make the problems with standing waves that existed beforehand noticeable.
The sub fills the room with low-frequency energy and thereby activates the existing room modes that were previously less noticeable without a subwoofer. This is especially true for smaller control rooms.
One solution to this can be to use multiple subwoofers and place them correctly.
Advantages of the subwoofer
- Better reproduction of the low frequency range
- More dynamism in the overall performance
- Less distortion at the same level
- More volume
- More musical playback
- Additional crossover network can degrade the sound
- Can quickly clutter the room
- Additional investment necessary
- Find the right model
- More effort when setting up and adjusting
A compromise without a subwoofer
Anyone who uses a rather manageable listening room may be better off with a compromise. It is not uncommon for large studio monitors with an eight-inch woofer to suffice. These go (assuming good models) deep enough to get an idea of the bass range that is sufficient for mixing for many styles of music.
Some 6.5 ″ models also offer enough information that can even be sufficient for mixing club music.
To make sure that nothing unforeseen takes place in the bass range, the music can be checked against other monitors. In the car, in the kitchen, on a large PA system, etc. - should problems with the bass range creep in, they will be uncovered in this way.
With a little experience, you will learn how a mixdown has to sound like without a subwoofer so that it also fits in the club.
If you want to buy a subwoofer, you should first clarify which type you are looking for or need. Here, on the one hand, there is a difference between active and passive subwoofers, as well as open and closed models.
Buy active or passive subwoofers?
To get started, I recommend reading the section "Active or passive studio monitors", in which important basics are laid down in detail.
While active subwoofers have an integrated amplifier and an integrated crossover network, passive models must first be paired with a suitable amplifier.
Active subwoofers have line-level inputs that are connected directly to an audio interface or preamplifier. They also come with line-level outputs to which the satellite boxes are connected.
A built-in crossover ensures that the loudspeakers from the subwoofer only have to receive and play mids and highs. With good models, the crossover frequency between sub and satellites can be set to enable the best possible performance.
Subwoofer closed or with bass reflex?
Here, too, I recommend reading the section "Active or passive studio monitors" with more basic knowledge about the two types of construction for loudspeakers.
Closed subwoofer: deeper, faster and more precise bass
A closed case holds a limited amount of air and tends to provide more accurate bass reproduction. For music in which a flat and accurate frequency reproduction without erratic character is necessary.
Subwoofer with bass reflex opening: For a more pompous bass
In return, open enclosures deliver a more volatile (boomy) bass. They tend to deliver even more bass than the closed models. However, this requires a larger housing - i.e. more space in the room.
Connect the subwoofer
In the recording studio environment, subwoofers usually work as an active part. This means that the integrated crossover takes care of the division into different frequency ranges. In the hi-fi sector, it is not uncommon for an amplifier to do the frequency division.
How to connect the subwoofer:
- Outputs on the audio interface are connected to the inputs of the subwoofer
- The loudspeakers are now connected to the outputs of the sub
- Set the crossover frequency on the subwoofer
- Adjust the level of the subwoofer
Find connection: subwoofer + satellites, fed by audio interface & Co.
Connect additional subwoofers
Some models come with an additional slave output for additional subwoofers. If several subs are used, they are connected to this output.
Set up the subwoofer
Just like placing speakers, the positioning of the sub has a big effect on the music playback. The deep bass is reproduced omnidirectionally (the loudspeaker radiates three-dimensionally in all directions) and can therefore not be located. But it would be foolish not to worry about the list because of this.
If the subwoofer is set up correctly, the bass sounds clean, tight and comes with a correspondingly fast punch. The transition between sub and loudspeakers is also influenced (positively or negatively). With a good choice it is inaudible.
In contrast, setting up a faulty subwoofer leads to erratic or exaggerated bass without the necessary richness of detail. There is a slow playback without punch and impulse fidelity. In such a constellation you will quickly notice when an instrument is being set to music by either the sub or the loudspeaker.
Our goal: The bass should sound as if it comes from the speakers.
Why you shouldn't listen to your buddy
In forums you can often read supposedly correct rules for the correct placement of the subwoofer. Even if these methods may have helped the writer or your buddy, every room is different. And since the room has a great influence on the sound, these rules do not have to apply to your room situation.
On the contrary, the tips from the forum can lead to a worse result - maybe because your room has more ceiling height, more or less square meters or the walls were not designed parallel.
Setting up tips for the subwoofer
Basically, the same rules apply that also apply to setting up loudspeakers. The sub should not be placed at the same distance from two parallel walls. Proximity to corners should also be avoided. Here, the reflections from the floor and walls provide more bass - but this is anything but accurate and detailed.
It would be ideal to measure different positions with the appropriate hardware and software and to make a decision based on the data. However, very few have this option at hand. Fortunately, there are other methods that can be used to get good performance.
By the way: It makes perfect sense to set up the subwoofer opposite the listening position so that it looks at the listener and shines in his direction.
Quick solution: Subwoofer close to the listening position
More dynamics and clarity come from a setup near the listening position. In proportion, this ensures more direct sound from the sub and less room sound or reflections from the room.
The best thing to do is to make sure that the subwoofer is not on the floor. If you increase it, it has two advantages:
- You keep getting closer to the sweet spot
- The ratio of direct sound to floor reflections improves
Setting up the subwoofer: step by step
To assess the sound, it is best to use a sound generator or keyboard to create a scale that extends from the bass to the mids. The individual tones should have the same velocity values (same volume) and be played percussively and only briefly.
If that is not possible, you can of course also take your reference CD and let it play. It is important that the bass was recorded cleanly and played over several layers of bass into the middle.
2. Set the subwoofer
For the following steps, it is sufficient as an initial approximation if the subwoofer is set reasonably appropriately. To do this, we set the crossover frequency to 85 Hz and ensure that the volume of the subwoofer is roughly appropriate to that of the loudspeakers.
3. Find the correct position for the subwoofer
Now you have to crawl along the floor and listen to every potential spot for the sub. At which point is the sound most homogeneous over the entire sequence and all positions? Where does the bass sound most natural?
In some positions in the room the scales will sometimes sound erratic, in others certain notes will sound louder than the others. At other positions, individual notes can even disappear.
You'll likely find a position or two in this step where the bass sounds balanced and crisp.
4. Set up the subwoofer
Now you can set up the subwoofer at this point and take your listening position. The next step is to adjust the subwoofer in order to create an optimal listening situation with the available resources.
Set the subwoofer
Once the correct position has been found, we have to find an optimal crossover frequency and phase / delay for our system. First of all, it is important to understand how the speakers sound on their own. If you bought them at the same time, you first have to investigate the behavior of the speakers yourself.
1. Turn the subwoofer down
It is best to listen to a few reference songs (or CDs) with the subwoofer turned off. Concentrate on the sound of the upper bass and mids.
2. Increase the volume of the sub
Now we are slowly and incrementally increasing the level of the subwoofer. We keep doing this until the volume of the bass notes sounds right. It is important here that this applies to all bass notes, i.e. all tones of the bass line.
A lot of people (myself included) tend to turn the subwoofer level too high because it makes the music sound more pompous. But even if that sounds very impressive at the beginning: The ears tire faster and those who mix on such a system often do very low-bass mixdowns.
Attention, tiresome ears!
If you listen carefully and with concentration over a certain period of time, your hearing quickly tires and the differences seem to disappear. Therefore, you should take a regular listening break.
It is best to go to another room or to nature and listen to the surrounding noises there. This will normalize your hearing ability again and you can concentrate on the comparison again.
3. Seamless transitions
It is important that the transition between the subwoofer and the satellite becomes inaudible. On the one hand, it is of course important that the selected models of studio monitors and subwoofers complement each other well and fit together accordingly.
The other influencing point is the chosen crossover frequency. A good starting point is 85 Hz. Pay special attention to this frequency range and correct the transition up and down to hear the difference in sound. The smoother and more homogeneous the transition sounds, the better.
Tip: If you set the frequency too high, it will have a negative effect on the overall sound. The subwoofer has to reproduce quite high tones for its conditions, which it cannot make as crisp as a studio monitor.
Runtime differences result in phase differences and thus possibly sound cancellations
4. Set the phase
With the phase control you can ensure that the sound from the subwoofer and loudspeaker arrive in phase.This means: the amplitude of all loudspeakers is maximum or minimum at the ear at the same time. This minimizes phase cancellations.
To get the best possible sound, the sound from speakers and subwoofers must reach the ear at the same time. If the subwoofer is further away, the sound from it takes longer. In this case, the sub has to play earlier than the studio monitors. The electronic components of the loudspeakers can also cause differences in the running times to the ear.
Most models, however, only come to the phase with 2-3 fixed settings (without setting for a time delay). All phase settings must therefore be tried out. Pay attention to the setting in which the bass is most crisp. The bass notes must not sound hollow.
It is best if a friend operates the phase switch while playing the reference CDs while you are in the listening position and watch for the differences in sound.
It can take more than an hour to finish setting up the subwoofer. Don't be afraid to experiment and try out different settings. It is also a good idea to listen to your own calibration again the following day with fresh ears and to do some fine-tuning again.
Tip: Set the phase correctly on the subwoofer
In the following you will find a more precise method to correctly set the phase on the subwoofer. What you need is a test signal that plays exactly the pitch of the crossover frequency. You can create one with a signal generator or you can find it on test CDs that are specially available from specialist retailers.
Step 1: reverse the polarity of the speakers
If you have a monitor controller, you only have to press a switch. We turn the phase on the two satellite boxes (polarity reversal). If you have connected your speakers via cinch, you can simply swap both plugs.
In this way we ensure that the subwoofer and satellites play in opposite phase. The frequencies played by both of them at the same time will partially or completely cancel each other out in the listening position.
Step 2: Play the test tone
From a test CD or from a signal generator, you play a tone at the level of the crossover frequency via loudspeakers and subwoofers.
Step 3: flip the phase switch
While you are sitting in the listening position, a friend flips the phase switch on the subwoofer. You listen to the position in which the least bass can be heard. That is the right position.
Step 4: set polarity back to normal
The studio monitors should now play normally again. Please reverse the polarity again so that it is in its original position again. Now the speakers are back in phase with the subwoofer and the phase cancellation should be minimal.
Clever solution with the KSdigital B88-Reference
The German manufacturer KSdigital is pursuing a very customer-oriented approach with the labeling of its phase regulator on the B88-Reference subwoofer. Instead of choosing degrees or times as the labeling, as is the case with many models, and leaving the conversion to the user, the distance was simply entered as a unit.
When setting up the subwoofer, you only have to pay attention to how far away it is from the studio monitors and place the controller on it. It can be set between 0 and 310 centimeters.
The manufacturer relies on active DSP technology for the crossover, as well as precise equalization and filter settings. There are two 8 “woofers in the housing, which provide the necessary pressure.
Calculation of the distance in milliseconds
Speed of sound: 343.5 meters per second (at 20 ° C)
343.5 m / s ÷ 1,000 ms = 0.3435 m / ms = 34.35 cm / ms
100 cm ÷ 34.35 cm / ms = 2.91 ms ≈ 3 ms
The sound takes about 3 milliseconds for one meter.
Calculation of the delay y for a distance x:
x cm ÷ 34.35 cm / ms = delay y
FAQ: Subwoofer & Features
There are some questions about the subwoofer in general and specific subwoofer functions that are asked again and again. We have put together the most common ones for you here.
Do the subwoofer and speakers have to be from the same manufacturer?
The short answer is no.
It is not necessary that the devices come from the same manufacturer. But it can make the search for a suitable subwoofer easier if you buy it from the same manufacturer. At least if both the subwoofer and the loudspeaker were developed with the same idea of the sound experience and perhaps also bring the appropriate control elements with them for coordination.
Otherwise you have to make sure that the studio monitors reach deep enough down to the crossover frequency. If this is not the case, there will be a hole in the frequency reproduction above it. What is meant is a small frequency range that is not reproduced by either the subwoofer or the loudspeaker.
How do I know if the loudspeaker and subwoofer are not working well together?
If the subwoofer and studio monitors are not well coordinated with one another, there will either be a drop in level or an increase in level in the area of the crossover frequency. Individual notes can then stand out or disappear in the overall mix.
Further problems can arise from the design of the housing and the electronics used. Both can cause different delays in playing the music. In some cases there are even frequency-dependent delays, which further complicate the coordination and can be up to 40 milliseconds.
Are controls for phase and time delay the same?
No. They both ensure that the phase of the reproduced sound is correctly aligned - but they are different settings.
Depending on how far the distance to the listening position differs from studio monitors or subwoofers, the alignment of the phase alone may no longer be sufficient to obtain a perfect sound. A correct time delay is required here to ensure that the subwoofer plays sooner or later than the satellites so that the sound from all speakers reaches the listener at the same time.
What is the best crossover frequency?
Of course, there is no such thing as the one best value. So that the subwoofer works properly and cannot be localized in the room, the frequency between the subwoofer and loudspeakers should be set below 90 Hz.
This also means that your studio monitors should have a good frequency response up to around 70 Hz (the transition does not happen abruptly, but gradually).
If the transition above 90 Hz is selected, the subwoofer must already play the deep mid-range and can thus be localized in the room.
The THX organization also recommends 85 Hz.
There are a number of legends and myths that bravely hold up as real, especially in Internet forums and among extended circle of friends. Here are some of them that are unsustainable.
»Deep bass can be located«
Not correct. Deep bass is output omnidirectionally and does not come out of the housing in a directional manner (in contrast to higher frequencies). The wavelengths are much longer than the dimensions of the subwoofer. Example: 60 Hz has a wavelength of 5.72 meters. The deep bass cannot be located.
What we can localize, however, are the overtones above 120 Hz, which also come from the bass instrument. These are output via the satellites and are directed out of the housings. That's what we can spot from the bass.
More on this topic can be found in the relevant literature on psychoacoustics.
"More power means more level"
Not correct. In addition to the power specification, the efficiency of the corresponding model is decisive. Part of the power is converted into heat. You can find more about this in the section "Loudspeaker efficiency".
»Certain subwoofers are only for this or that«
A subwoofer is just a speaker at the end of the day and doesn't care what type of signal it is playing. A good sub will render any genre of music or movie appropriately well.
On the other hand, bad models can have an increase in frequency response from which certain genres of music or films benefit. But this behavior is not optimal, because it has a positive effect there, negative.
The more linear the frequency response, the more versatile the application scenario. In addition, when mixing or mastering music, reliable decisions can only be made with a neutral frequency response.
Subwoofer comparison - recommendations & highlights
|Power (watts, RMS)||200 W||300 W||160 W|
|Transmission range (measurement tolerance)||30-200 Hz||20 - 120 Hz||28 - 150 Hz|
|Max. Sound pressure||n / a||90 dB||110 dB|
|Entrances||XLR / 6.3mm||XLR / 6.3 mm / Cinch / S / PDIF||XLR / Cinch|
|Outputs||6.3 mm||XLR / 6.3 mm / Cinch / S / PDIF||XLR / Cinch|
|Dimensions (W × H × D)||320 x 381 x 385 mm||374 x 368 x 383 mm||260 x 410 x 380 mm|
|Weight||16.7 kg||18.7 kg||12 kg|
|particularities||✖||S / PDIF input & output||Remote control for |
Crossover frequency & volume
|Street price||222,- €||599,- €||599,- €|
|To the portrait|
The studio monitors named in the following portraits that match the subwoofers can be found in our studio monitor comparison - with all technical data, unique selling points and pictures.
The right addition to the ASM5 or ASM7 - with it you get one of the best complete systems in our subwoofer comparison with plenty of bass for very little money. The quality is good enough to combine it with higher priced studio monitors. It is only suitable for stereo setups, as is most of the following models.
Monkey Banana Turbo 10s
A subwoofer recommendation for everyone who also values smart aesthetics: With its unorthodox hexagonal housing, this candidate fits very nicely into the home studio. One of the best partners is the in-house loudspeaker Turbo 6. It supports this in the bass and extends it down to 20 Hertz - quite powerful. The variety of connections is astonishingly high and the digital input + output for S / PDIF tops it all off.
This test subject with a compact 8.5-inch woofer reaches down to 28 Hz - good for supporting the manufacturer's own loudspeakers A7X, T5V and T7V. As a special feature, there are two motor potentiometers (motorized rotary controls that move according to the remote control) - they can be used to set the crossover frequency and the volume. The remote control for remote control is included. Very practical for optimal coordination directly from the desired listening position in the studio.
There are two 8-inch woofers in the compact housing of this high-quality subwoofer. It is a great addition to the in-house C5 Reference in particular, but also to the C8 Reference. Digital technology ensures the linearization of the frequency response and allows filtering depending on the room acoustics. The signal delay can be conveniently controlled using a rotary control to compensate for the spatial distance to the satellites. With the optional remote control, additional parameters are under your control: gain, phase / delay and a parametric 6-band EQ.
Neumann KH 805
This model is matched to the in-house loudspeakers KH 120 and KH 310. The bass of the 10-inch woofer reaches astonishingly far: only at 18 Hertz does the frequency response in the free field flatten to the level of -3 dB. Four LFE modes allow flexibility for any stereo and multi-channel setup. Acoustic controls and a bass-remote controllable bass management function are also available.
A particularly big chunk awaits you here - the largest woofer in our subwoofer comparison. In addition, the highest amplifier output is also supplied with 300 watts. It supports the Shape 50 and Shape 65 studio monitors. There is a variety of connections for 2.1, 2.2 and multi-channel systems - inputs and outputs for L / R and LFE are on board. Not to forget: A footswitch input allows for quick remote deactivation to check how the mix sounds with or without a sub-bass foundation.
PSI Sub A125-M
Two copies of this subwoofer fit like a glove to a pair of the studio monitor A21-M from the same company. A single copy is recommended to support the A17-M. The 100% analog model goes down to 28 Hertz (-6 dB). An anti-resonance system is integrated into the double box housing. Here you can look forward to a very high-quality, individually calibrated subwoofer made in Switzerland, on which there is a five-year guarantee.
Also read: Studio monitors overview
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